Let us grow in our respect for each other
The euphoria attending our 50th anniversary Independence celebrations has largely dissipated save for what lingers from our Olympic triumphs in London. In our athletes we have a lot to be euphoric about. They have demonstrated once again that with single-minded and focused devotion to the task at hand excellence can be achieved. We congratulate them not only because they have performed well, but because they have left us an enduring legacy of that true Jamaican spirit which, if properly harnessed, can really make our little country a true jewel in the world.
We have the capacity for greatness, not just in sports but in other areas as well. What I saw in the Independence celebrations combined with our Olympic victories were a people fiercely proud of being Jamaican. Despite the hiccups in the organisation of the 50th anniversary celebrations, the culminating events in the Grand Gala were executed almost flawlessly. Those who watched on television and the internet felt pride and a sense of nostalgia for a Jamaica in which they can believe and which they can help to build into the little giant among nations which she can truly become. This pride and feeling of goodwill was felt not only by those living on the Rock but decidedly by those in the diaspora. Yes, economic and other problems abound, but for a brief time in August we won a well-needed respite from worrying about the IMF, the roads to be paved and poor political governance. We abandoned ourselves in sheer joy as we saw the potential of a nation wrapped in the mantle of sports excellence, but captured also in the resilience of the Jamaican people.
The future beckons and it is to this that we must turn our attention with fixity of purpose and determination. We must immediately seek out what economic gain we can derive from our athletic exploits in London. It is interesting that in Beijing a JLP government had the honour to be graced by the victories of our Olympians and that this time around the honour belongs to a PNP administration. It can be said without any great controversy that the JLP largely dropped the ball in Beijing in not harnessing the triumph of our athletes for economic gain. We will see if the PNP will do the same this time around. The country could not have got a greater advertisement than we did at the Olympics. There is great room for advantages to be derived in the sport industry and tourism. The international curiosity of people as to why there can be this athletic prowess from a country with 2.7 million people is remarkable at this time. We must exploit this curiosity in getting people to come here and to share in our legendary hospitality. We have nearly perfected athletics to an art form, and Jamaica can become a laboratory to the world for training, consultancy and other allied activities that can reap rich dividends for the country. A wise government would have looked at these things long before the Olympics and positioned itself for what has unfolded in London.
As the future beckons there is one indispensable component that we have to recapture in our national life, if true progress is to be secured. This has to do with respect and compassion for one another. This may sound trite to some people, but I believe this to be even more important than any agreement we may secure with the IMF or any investment that the Chinese may pour into Jamaica. We see respect and togetherness when our athletes perform well on the world stage or when a national disaster threatens. But what we should hope for is not an intermittent demonstration of respect for one another, but one which becomes deeply ingrained in the psyche of our people and which defines our interactions with each other. For example, I speak of the respect that the politicians should have for their constituents in which the constituents are not seen as objects of exploitation to satisfy political ends, but as human beings with real needs that ought to be attended to on a non-partisan basis. I dream of the kind of respect that business owners should have for their employees as indispensable components of their companies' success and not as mere appendages to capital or cogs in a machine. A business that operates on a philosophy of a fundamental respect for people does not have to wait for minimum wage legislation to realise that the worker ought to be paid a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.
Respectability is not gained by those who would want to flaunt their wealth in the faces of people; who believe they have arrived because they can drive the newest "bimmer" on the pot-holed streets of our country - a contradiction if there ever was one! Neither is it gained by being boorish or by having an inflated sense of one's academic achievements which should set one on a higher rung than others. I have seen my fair share of intellectual giants who turn out to be no more than social dwarfs in their relationship with people. Respect will flow as you give it and will be staunched as you hoard it. We are yet to appreciate the correlation between economic progress and the fundamental regard or respect that we ought to show to each other. I hope that as we move toward the 100th year of our Independence this will become more evident in our national life.